Born to parents Beatts describes as "beatniks", Beatts grew to have what has been called an "aggressive, dark sensibility" which she later put to use in the world of comedy. Growing up in Somers, New York, she later attended McGill University.
After graduating from college, Beatts joined National Lampoon magazine, a national offshoot of the Harvard Lampoon. She brought her dark sense of humor to her work, and co-wrote a parody advertisement for Volkswagen with Philip Socci for which the magazine was later sued by the car company. The advertisement stated, "If Ted Kennedy drove a Volkswagen, he'd be President today," accompanied by a photograph of a VW Beetle floating on a lake (an allusion to Kennedy's Chappaquiddick incident).
Beatts became the first female editor of National Lampoon magazine, where she worked with Michael O'Donoghue. The two became romantically involved, and both soon joined the creative team of Saturday Night Live in the early years of the program.
Beatts is regarded as something of a pioneer in TV and comedy circles, as an early female comedy writer and one of the very few female writers working in the National Lampoon/SNL comedy scene of the 1970s. At SNL she was nominated for an Emmy five times, winning once. She later won a Writer's Guild Award in 2001. She created the cult hit 1982 CBS series Square Pegs and appeared in several episodes (she also did uncredited acting work on the early SNL), and while the series lasted only one season it has been frequently rerun since and several of the cast members (most notably Sarah Jessica Parker) have gone on to greater fame.
Since Square Pegs, Beatts wrote the book for the 1985 Ellie Greenwich jukebox musical Leader of the Pack and produced the first season of A Different World in 1987-1988 and since then has gradually dropped out of sight, writing for television very rarely. Her most recent TV credit was the 56th Annual Writers Guild Awards in 2004. In 2006, she directed the series John Waters Presents Movies That Will Corrupt You with her writing and producing partner, Eve Brandstein for B-Girls Productions.
Beatts serves as Adjunct Professor in the Writing Division at the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts, as well as at Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Media Arts. She also gives private lessons on writing sketch comedy.
- National Lampoon (Magazine)
- National Lampoon's Lemmings (with Sean Kelly, Tony Hendra, Christopher Guest, and Paul Jacobs) (1973) (Stage Show)
- Tarzoon: Shame of the Jungle (with Michael O'Donohue) (1975) (Adaptation)
- National Lampoon: A Dirty Book (1976) (Book)
- Saturday Night Live (1975–1979) (TV)
- Titters: The First Collection of Humor by Women (with Deanne Stillman) (1976)
- Gilda Live (with Gilda Radner, Michael O'Donoghue, Alan Zweibel, Don Novello, Lorne Michaels, Marilyn Suzanne Miller, Paul Shaffer, and Rosie Shuster) (1980) (Stage Show)
- Square Pegs (1982–1983) (TV)
- Titters 101 (with Deanne Stillman and Judith Jacklin Belushi) (1984) (Book)
- Leader of the Pack (1985) (Stage Show)
- A Different World (1987–1988) (TV) (Producer only)
- Faerie Tale Theatre (1987) (TV)
- The Belles of Bleeker Street (1991) (TV)
- Murphy Brown (1991) (TV)
- The Elvira Show (1993) (TV)
- The Stephanie Miller Show (1995) (TV)
- Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child (2000) (TV)
- Hollywood Off-Ramp (2000) (TV)
- 56th Annual Writer's Guild Awards (2004) (TV)
- The Paley Center for Media | She Made It | Anne Beatts Archived February 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
- "The Press: Lampoon's Surrender". Time. 12 November 1973. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
- gladwell dot com - group think Archived April 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
- Anne Beatts - Awards
- Stand-Up vs. Sketch Comedy Showdown | Project Breakout Archived May 17, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
- "Anne Beatts". Los Angeles, Calif.: University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts. Archived from the original on 26 February 2010. Retrieved 28 February 2010.
- Beatts, Anne. "Saturday Night Live in 5 Easy Lessons!". Retrieved 28 February 2010.
- Anne Beatts at the Internet Movie Database
- Anne Beatts interview video at the Archive of American Television
- Two part interview Anne Beatts on her involvement with NL: Part One / Part Two